I was a huge fan of “Jagged Alliance 2” back in 1999. So much so that I played through it three or four times. I’m a fan of Turn-Based Strategy games in general, since I find Real-Time Strategy games a little too frenetic. There’s just too much keyboard shortcutting and rapid mouse movements for me to enjoy playing them.
So when I saw “Jagged Alliance Flashback” on Kickstarter last year, I thought it would be worth trying to see if they could make a good, modern take on the franchise. After all, the new XCOM game had been awesome.
Unfortunately, the new JA game is less than awesome. Some things they got very right. The gameplay is still fun, as it hasn’t changed much from JA2. However, it’s not exactly intuitive. I was still discovering things in the interface at the end of the game, after twenty-two hours of play. It made me appreciate the tutorial in XCOM all the more. While there is a tutorial mission in JAF, it’s not mandatory, and it’s kind of boring. So I skipped it, thinking it would be enough like the old game that I could get by.
The main flaw in the game was a lack of story. It seems like they ran out of money and decided to perfect the gameplay, dropping the story to do so. That’s fair enough, I suppose, as I’d rather good gameplay and no story than a good story and no gameplay, but it did make the game a little hollow. Without scenes like those of the raging Deidranna as a bad guy, the Prince had no impact at all. It might be a small spoiler to say, but I defeated him without him firing a single shot at the end, so he almost could have been absent. I was expecting an end boss, but he’s just another soldier, and not a strong one.
There are a few bugs in the game, which weren’t terrible, but still popped up. The game crashed five times or so, which is not too bad. The more important bugs were in the interface. Since the map, character portraits and character actions are overlayed over the action area, if you click one pixel too far in any direction, your selected character will run into fire. That made for a few annoying moments.
The most irritating thing, though, was the infinite respawns of the enemy. As long as enemies control a sector, they can spawn a new squad every twenty seconds or so. While you can only train about three militia in that time. So if you’ve captured a sector and want to train militia, you find yourself in an infinite loop of training them, them being wiped out by the enemy, you killing the enemy and then trying to train them.
In the end, I just charged for the Prince to end the game. I’d stopped caring about side missions or captured territory, as they all disappeared anyway.
Overall, I give “Jagged Alliance Flashback” 2/5 stars, meaning that it was okay. It took me twenty-two hours to complete, but I feel without the grind of the spawning enemies, it would have gotten a higher rating. They added probably five hours to the playtime that meant I was bored by the end. I’d recommend giving it a try if it’s on sale and you are a big TBS fan, but otherwise giving it a miss.
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